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ASEAN-Australia-NZ Free Trade Agreement talks begin.

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Media release

21 February 2005 - MVT11/2005

ASEAN-Australia-NZ Free Trade Agreement Talks Begin

Trade Minister Mark Vaile launched the first round of formal negotiations on a Free Trade

Agreement (FTA) between Australia, New

Zealand and the 10 members of ASEAN, today in Melbourne.

"With a population of 545 million, combined GDP of almost US$700 billion and growth rates predicted to be well above the global average in coming years, ASEAN presents exciting commercial opportunities for Australia," Mr Vaile said.

"The meeting of senior trade officials is an important step in taking forward the Government's long-standing priority of strengthening our trade and economic engagement with South-East Asia.

"This initial round of talks has allowed us to map out the way forward for the negotiations. Our job is to complete the FTA within two years.

"Last year my ASEAN and New Zealand colleagues and I agreed that the FTA should be comprehensive, and seek to progressively eliminate barriers to trade affecting goods, services, and investment. Achieving this outcome would clearly demonstrate the region's leadership in trade liberalisation and add momentum to the multilateral trade negotiations under the WTO."

Prime Minister John Howard, together with his ASEAN and New Zealand counterparts, agreed last November to commence FTA negotiations, with the Agreement to be fully implemented within 10 years.

"The 10 members of ASEAN provide a market

for more than $17 billion of Australian exports of goods and services. An FTA with ASEAN provides the opportunity to expand this trade significantly and will complement our bilateral FTAs with Singapore and Thailand as well as our scoping study on a possible FTA with Malaysia."

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations comprises Brunei Darussalam, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Contact: Mr Vaile's office 02 6277 7420 - DFAT Media Liaison 02 6261 1555